Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has denounced yesterday’s arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Dare Akogun, a broadcast journalist based in Ilorin, by the Kwara State Command of the Nigeria Police Force in an effort to get him to backtrack on a corruption claim he allegedly made against a state official.
MRA urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, to end the ongoing practice of politicians, government officials, and other powerful people using the Police to shield themselves from scrutiny or criticism and to harass or intimidate journalists and media outlets reporting on their activities in a statement released in Lagos by its Director of Programs, Mr. Ayode Longe, and made available to National Daily.
By letter dated October 7, 2022, which was delivered to Mr. Akogun on October 12, 2022, the Police requested that they meet with Mr. Steve Yabanet, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department at the Kwara State Command of the Nigerian Police, on October 13, 2022 at 11 a.m. The request for Mr. Akogun to report to the office was described as “simply a fact-finding invitation” in the letter, which stated that the agency was looking into cases of criminal defamation, hurtful untruth, and inciting unrest against Mr. Akogun.
On October 13, when Mr. Akogun accepted the invitation, the Deputy Police Commissioner requested that he send a letter of apology to Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, who had petitioned the State Police Command to look into and prosecute Mr. Abdulrasheed Akogun and Mr. Dare Akogun for alleged criminal defamation against him.
The governor’s spokesman claimed in the petition that the two men committed the crime through WhatsApp posts they made on September 30, 2022, in which they accused him of facilitating the use of more than N15 million in taxpayer money to finance the most recent chairmanship election of the State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
When Mr. Akogun arrived at the station with his attorney, Mr. Taiwo Olaitan, the Deputy Police Commissioner asked him to draft a letter of apology to the Chief Press Secretary without verifying the accuracy of the report. However, Mr. Akogun rejected, claiming that doing so would be the same as admitting to the accusation of criminal defamation and injurious untruth. The Deputy Police Commissioner then issued an order for his detention.
Mr. Longe described the Deputy Police Commissioner’s behavior as illegal, an abuse of authority, and an abuse of his position. He added that it is embarrassing that the Police now view protecting the reputation of those in political office, politicians, and other powerful people as their primary duty and that they are abusing their coercive powers to carry out this function. The Inspector-General of Police should summon his officers to order right away and warn them against turning into tools in the hands of the wealthy and powerful.
He demanded Mr. Akogun’s immediate and unconditional release, admonishing that MRA will take legal action to defend and uphold his fundamental rights and seek significant damages for the oppressive breach of those rights if it was not done within 24 hours.
National Daily will follow up to see how the Police responds to the letter by MRA.